For most of us, freestyle rapping for 13 seconds is a recipe for a catastrophe made up of complete humiliation and nonstop sorrow. In the face of total failure, 13 seconds is an eternity. Now, consider trying to freestyle for 13 hours – congratulations, you just imagined a fate worse than death. Luckily for Christian Grace (aka Street Light), 13 hours of freestyle rapping is a walk in the park. Street Light recently broke the world record for longest continual freestyle, clocking in at 13 hours and beating the previous record by 1 hour. The world record event presented by Big Frame and Recordsetter.com was live-streamed across YouTube on July 2nd. We caught up with Street Light just after he broke the record to talk about hip-hop on YouTube and being a world record holder.
Street Light: Pretty cool.
Matthew: What made you want to achieve this record? Where did you hear about this record in the first place?
Street Light:I think a friend or a listener of mine last year mentioned that there was such a record, because I had been playing around, freestyling, somewhere last June, and they suggested it, and I checked into it. That’s what made me sort of get into it.
Matthew: The old record was 12 hours. What made you think, “Oh, I could do it for 13 or 14 hours?”
Street Light: I guess I’m ambitious. At the time, the record was 9 hours, 18 minutes, so I went home and I would do an hour freestyle session every now and then. Then one morning, I got up and as I was going, I said, “I don’t have anything to do, so lets see.” I went for 1 hour or 2 hours, and someone came on and said 9 hours was the current record, so I just went for it. So I had already gone close to 10 hours.
Matthew: Besides doing it everyday and every morning, how else did you prepare for it?
Street Light: Believe it or not, I didn’t really practice formally for it, except for me just playing around, freestyling, whenever I feel like it. I feel like if you force it, you won’t gain anything from it. But if you’re in the moment, the time and all this other stuff doesn’t matter; you can come up with some good stuff.
Matthew: Towards the end there, you seemed pretty tired. Were you as tired as you seemed on video?
Street Light: Well, from 9-12 hour-wise, I was like full-on energy, but after I had broken it, I was like, “I’m ready to get out of here.” But I felt like I needed to add another hour to the record rather than minutes, but yes, I was exhausted.
Matthew: Let’s say someone comes and does 15 hours tomorrow–are you going to try to do 16 or 17? Are you going to keep rallying back?
Street Light: I don’t know. We’ll see what comes with this first. I think just the fact that I did it, the exposure and everything is good for me and is a personal achievement. I think it’s some pretty cool stuff for the people who listen to my music and view my videos; I really wanted to do it for them. I don’t know if the excitement would be there as much for the next one; I may have a larger audience by then but probably not.
Matthew: How do you think this event will grow your audience and grow your exposure?
Street Light: Honestly, I don’t know. I just know I made a lot of connections, because I went and looked at my phone, and it’s connected to Facebook and Twitter, emails, texts–just blowing up. So I know that it’s at least growing substantially in the hip hop community. As far as YouTube, I know a lot of people were there—I’m just not sure. We’re just taking things one step at a time, and I’m the recovery phase right now.
Matthew: In terms of YouTube versus the hip hop community, obviously you’d want to grow in both, but is there one that you’d prefer to grow in success in?
Street Light: My goal is more so to combine the two, because they’re actually very similar. I view YouTube more for me as a platform, a medium, and I try to not essentialize my audience. Someone who watches my videos on YouTube, I try to connect them to Facebook and Twitter. They listen to my music as an entity rather than just as YouTube viewers, so there’s not one over the other. I think they’re equally important. YouTube, on the expansion aspect, I think it’s easier to grow because random people find your content, whereas in the hip hop community, you have to be a bit more persuasive.
Matthew: When you say you have to be more persuasive in the hip hop community, what do you mean by that?
Street Light: On YouTube, you have people who will support you for various reasons and just because. They’ll be like, “Hey, I like the way your videos are formatted,” or something like that. You get a lot of different people who will easily be like, “Hey, go check out this person’s channels,” and once they start viewing your stuff, they get to see your personality. Whereas in hip hop with your music–I guess I should clarify and say that you have to be more persuasive with your music; your music has to be spot-on. The competition is much tougher in the hip hop industry.
Matthew: Do you feel that the hip hop industry and the YouTube industry share similarities in the sense that everyone thinks they can go out and freestyle and rap, and everyone thinks they can go out and make YouTube videos? But that doesn’t mean that they’re good, you know? Everyone tries, but it doesn’t necessarily mean they’re good at it.
Street Light: I think with the freestyling thing, I don’t necessarily believe in luck, but for the sake of saying it in an easier way, you have to be lucky in multiple, multiple occasions, and so I don’t think with the freestyling it’s something anyone just pick up. But I do feel YouTube was created so that people could upload anything they want for anybody. And I don’t think that should change; the people who are really good at making their videos can grow their audience, but when it comes to hip hop in that sense, no. That’s something that I feel is a skill that has to be developed and maintained.
Matthew: So you’re saying that creating YouTube videos at one point is a skill, but right off the bat it isn’t a skill that you naturally have to have.
Street Light: Yeah, right off the bat I think it’s anybody’s right to make videos, and people’s opinions as far as what’s good in a YouTube video differs. There’s tons of content creators that have really well-directed stuff and it’s very organized, but I’ve seen raw YouTube videos where people just have webcams, and I find their content to be more interesting. So I think it rests less on the production development and more on the raw talent, whereas in hip hop, raw talent will only get you so far.
Matthew: In terms of hip hop, what else will take you further than just raw talent?
Street Light: For instance, freestyling is raw talent-wise an ability you can have for a couple of minutes. Like if you have it, you have it. That’s cool. As far as being able to go for long periods of time, it’s developing through a mental state. I feel like freestyling is one of the more minor elements, and if you’re talking about being able to rap on different style tracks or your cadence, your delivery, vocal range, voice control, metaphors, entendres, the actual content, those are the things you have to develop. It’s not anything someone’s going to get right off the bat.
Matthew: Right. It’s such a cool thing. It was one of the coolest things I have seen anyone doing on YouTube in a while, so that’s a really impressive feat. Thanks for giving us a couple of minutes of your time. Congrats.
Street Light: It was fun to do, and I’m glad people are recognizing it. It was good enough as a personal achievement for myself, but I feel like so many people worked to make it happen that it turned into something much bigger, so it’s something that should be seen—anyone that had a hand in it should look at it and say, “Hey, we helped do that together.”